1. Serving taught me patience.
On a busy night, I may be running five tables. On average, that's probably 15-30 guests at one time. 15-30 guests who (usually) have it in their minds that they are my one and only priority.
Then add to that the fact that I have 15-30 different personalities that are all my responsibility. Everyone has to leave happy.
There is probably a guest who has sucked down 4 Cokes since he sat down, a kid who is throwing biscuits on the floor, an old couple who wants to talk about their grandchildren, a mistake on someone's food, a table who is determined to get some portion of their meal comped, someone who needs dishes cleared off the table, and someone who wants to play 20 questions about the menu.
To say I'm busy would be an understatement.
But I patiently continue to refill drinks, hokey up the biscuits on the floor, awe over the pictures of the grandkids, beg the chef to recook the medium steak that was supposed to be medium well, hunt down a manager and ask them to visit the table who wants something for free, and answer every question about the menu (that is probably clearly listed if you just read a little closer).
This has made me a very, very patient person. I'm not always thrilled, but I am always in control of the pressure.
2. Serving taught me time management.
Remember all those guests who are having a terrible dining experience, and I have to put a smile on all of their faces before they leave?
Additionally, I have to make sure the ice in the alley stays full, walk food, and help out my co-workers if they need a hand. I have to take the time to run up to the bar and get drinks, and hope to God that the bartender has them made. I have to make sure everyone's orders are rung in at the right time, and pace drinks, appetizers, entrees, and desserts at the precise moment they want them.
I have to continuously plan for the minutes ahead. I have to make sure I make full use of every trip I make to the kitchen.
I have to manage my time in a way that allows me to do every part of my job, and keep every guest happy.
3. Serving taught me to be understanding.
This one pretty much covers the board.
When a table has a bad experience, or their food is cold, or there was a mistake, I have to put myself in their shoes. When I go out to eat, I want it to go smoothly, and if something doesn't go right, I don't want my server to be rude and snotty about it. I want her to be apologetic and fix the problem. I want her to be on my side. So I have to be understanding of that, and side with my customers.
On top of that, someone I'm working with is probably not happy all night. Maybe her daughter was up sick all night and she got stiffed by her last table and the next one is being very rude to her.
Maybe the chef keeps messing up and he is feeling really out of it and drained. Maybe he just needs a breather.
I have to be understanding of all of it. Everything runs smoother if you can just accept things for what they are.
4. Serving taught me how to strike up conversations.
It's my job to be friendly and warm and inviting. When I first started serving, I wasn't sure what to say or how much time I should spend with each table. How long should I small talk? Should I find things to chat about with them? How do we relate?
This has helped me tremendously in my real life.
I can start a conversation with just about anyone, about just about anything. I may not enjoy every minute of the conversation, but this ability is a great one. It has allowed me to meet so many people and to learn so much about people.
And people are really, really interesting.
5. Serving taught me how to smile through it.
Some nights just aren't good ones.
Some days just aren't good ones.
When I'm stressed to the top at work, my tables cannot know it. They are out to have a good time, not hear about my problems. So I smile while I talk to them, laugh with them, joke with them. They're having a good time, and that's the goal.
In my real life, no matter how bad things seem, I remember to wear a smile because sometimes, if you wear it long enough, you realize you're not faking it anymore.
6. Serving taught me to be a hard worker.
I currently make $2.13/hour. Taxes come out of that. I can't tell you the last time I even saw a paycheck. I work for my tips, and that's all I make.
I have to work hard to get good tips. I have to be a great server. I have to prove that I'm worth that 20%.
Because I'm used to being paid based on my effort, I find that the extra effort does pay, in most situations.
I always put my best foot forward and give it my all because that seems to be the way to reap the most benefits.
7. Serving has allowed me to lead a pretty good life.
I make decent money, for a 21 year old. I can pay my bills, go out to eat, shop, and go to the bars without running myself dry. I have a lot of things that I want, and I can provide them for myself (most of the time).
Along with that, serving has allowed me to take time off when I need it, or when I just want it. I don't get 2 weeks of vacation time- I get to take vacation whenever I want it and whenever I can afford it. Granted, it isn't paid time off, but how many jobs can you think of that you can just take a week off?
It allows me to go to school. I can work my schedule around whatever my school schedule looks like.
I can take a night off, just because I want to. Someone is always looking for a shift, so if something comes up, no big deal.
And I can work extra when I want to. Someone almost always has something better to do, so I can take their shift and make a little extra money.